Good morning! Despite the rain, we powered through with our Fourth of July barbecue, and it was a jolly good time. We pitched in with the neighbors for a community ping pong table, which was a big hit at the party as expected.
So today, I’m sharing an entirely self-drafted tennis dress I’ve been plotting for a while. K is starting tennis camp this week, and it seemed imperative that I make an appropriate outfit. Tennis holds a very special spot in my heart; about five billion years ago as a high schooler, I remember inexplicably wanting to join the tennis team the summer after my sophomore year. It didn’t matter that I’d never played the sport before — when I set my mind to do something, I don’t give up easily. One of my best friends had just made it onto the boys’ varsity tennis team, so I talked him into practicing with me. Almost every day, in the sweltering, smog-filled summer air of Los Angeles, he volleyed with me, patiently teaching me how to serve, how to slice the ball with my backhand, how to strategize. Thanks entirely to him, I aced the tryouts and made it onto the girls’ varsity team.
I loved tennis. But my serves were so forceful and erratic that my doubles partner would step off to the side of the court so as not to get hit by the balls that were so frequently off-the-mark. I’ve pummeled many a partner in the hindquarters, which as you can imagine didn’t make me a very popular partner.
Propelled by my obsession with the sport, my first long-term job in high school was at a tennis store near my school, where the unconventional owner decided that a sixteen-year-old should be the manager of the clothing department (that would be me). It was there that I expressed a surprising rebellion. The store uniform was to wear classic white tennis skirts — you know, the super short kind. That was not okay with me, though it had less to do with feminism and more with self-consciousness. Part of the job entailed climbing frighteningly high, rickety ladders to access tennis shoes stored at the topmost area near the ceiling, and I didn’t want people (especially the cute guys stringing the rackets) ogling up my skirt. I refused to wear the skirt but conceded to wear denim Agassi shorts like the boys. No other female employee had ever refused, so I was quite pleased with my trailblazing ways.
There was also that time when the owner tasked me with depositing a boatload of cash and told me to take his jeep. I’d only just gotten my driver’s permit and didn’t know exactly how to drive a stick shift, but I figured, “How hard can it be?” It was a nightmare, and I still shake my head in disbelief that the owner let me take his car without adult supervision and that I somehow managed to drive the thing like a bucking horse to the bank and back. But I digress.
The point is that in addition to the dress, I had to make matching shorts to wear underneath. These were self-drafted as well. I wanted K to use her actual tennis racket as a prop, but it was so huge that it threw off the proportions of things too much, so I switched it out with the daintier badminton racket.
The fabric is a french terry from here (it doesn’t seem to be available online), and I didn’t realize that the fabric was in a tube until I started drafting my pattern. I used a 7-inch yellow zipper and the binding is more of the denim knit that I used for last week’s top. I had cut up a bunch of bias tapes for future use, and I’m glad I did.
K likes it a lot, though she was puzzled by the zipper in the front. She insisted that it should be in the back:
For an extra clean and neat finish, I hand-stitched the bias binding, and I think the accent color really pops. It took forever, but I stitched while watching Orphan Black— a reader suggestion and now I’m completely hooked (thank you Deana!) — so time went quickly. The show is so so good! Unlike K, I’m loving the sporty look of the exposed zipper in the front, and you’d think that by now, I would have this whole exposed zipper action down. I’d promised Asmita a tutorial, and surprise surprise, I discovered that I’m doing it all wrong, so I’m including a couple of video tutorials done right here and here. These two excellent tutorials will yield a much more professional-looking finish than my method, which is slapdash at best. To speed things up, you could do away with the interfacing, since I haven’t used interfacing and the zippers have been fine on the sturdier fabrics.
So happy. This dress came out exactly the way I envisioned it, and that doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. Hooray! K’s now all ready for tennis camp, and she’s pumped!